Indian Space Association

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    • Recently, the Prime Minister launched the Indian Space Association (ISpA), an industry body of government and private companies.

    About ISpA

    • Aim: To supplement the Centre’s efforts in commercial space exploration and space-based communication.
    • Members: Various stakeholders in the Indian space domain with members comprising the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Bharti Airtel, OneWeb, Tata Group’s Nelco, L&T, MapMyIndia among others.
    • Indian Space Association, an organisation meant to represent the interests of the space sector with government and private sector bodies across the board.
    • It will support start-ups and will work towards facilitating and enabling private players to work in tandem with ISRO.
    • The industry association will act as an independent and “single-window” agency for enabling the opening up of the space sector to start-ups and the private sector.

    Significance

    • Organised: It will prove to be an organised manner of bringing ISRO and private together.
    • New roads: Opened pathways for  Indian talent, whether it is in the public sector or in the private sector. Also, several private sector companies, however, have shown an interest in India’s space domain, with space-based communication networks coming to the fore.
    • Framework: Engage with stakeholders across the ecosystem for the formulation of an enabling policy framework.
    • Better infrastructure: expertise of Private businesses can be used to have state of art technology.
    • Funding: With the involvement of the private sector, the issue of funding could be resolved. Best examples are Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. It will also help reduce this burden from the Government. 
    • Rollback of state:  In sectors where the government “wasn’t needed” the private sector ought to be stepping in. The government shall just play the mere role of facilitator. 
    • Establishing global linkages: Several private sector companies, however, have shown an interest in India’s space domain, with space-based communication networks coming to the fore.
    • Speedy process and other benefits: The space sector implied better speed from shipment to delivery for entrepreneurs, this also means better security and income for fishermen and better forecast of the natural calamity. 
    • Enhanced R&D: Deeper engagement with academia, industry and government for research and development in the space sector was needed.
    • Enhancing self dependency: ISpA aims to contribute to the Government of India’s vision of making India Atma Nirbhar and a global leader in the space arena, which is fast emerging as the next growth frontier for mankind.

    Importance of satellite-based Internet in India

    • Digital India: 
      • The expansion of the Internet in India is crucial to the Modi government’s dream of a Digital India where a majority of government services are delivered directly to the customer. 
    • Internet in hilly areas:
      • Although the government aims to connect all villages and gram panchayats with high-speed Internet over the next 1000 days through BharatNet, internet connectivity in hilly areas and far-flung places of Northeast India are still a challenge.
    • Satellite internet better for remote areas:
      • Satellite Internet will be essential for broadband inclusion in remote areas and sparsely populated locations where terrestrial networks have not reached. 
      • As of now, however, satellite communications remains limited to use by corporates and institutions that use it for emergency use, critical trans-continental communications and for connecting to remote areas with no connectivity.
    • Coming at par with global numbers: 
      • As of August 2021, India had only 3 lakh satellite communications customers, compared with 45 lakh in the US and 21 lakh in the European Union.

    Private Projects

    • OneWeb: 
      • OneWeb, backed by Bharti Group, announced that it entered an arrangement with NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the commercial arm of ISRO, to launch its satellite in India from 2022.
      • OneWeb is building its initial constellation of 648 low-earth orbit satellites and has already put 322 satellites into orbit. 
      • Its services are expected to start this year to the Arctic region including Alaska, Canada, and the UK. 
      • By late 2022, it will offer its high-speed, low latency connectivity services in India and the rest of the world.
    • Space-based communication: 
      • In India, the space-based communications network has taken off with several Indian and international companies betting on it as the next frontier to provide high-speed and affordable Internet connectivity to inaccessible areas as well. This includes SpaceX’s StarLink, Sunil Bharti Mittal’s OneWeb, Amazon’s Project Kuiper, US satellite maker Hughes Communications, etc.
    • Satellite-based internet service:
      • StarLink and Amazon are also in discussion with the Indian government for a licence to offer satellite-based Internet services. SpaceX has a plan to create a network of 12,000 satellites of which over 1,300 are already sky-borne.

    Way Ahead

    • For the space industry to grow, the government should help small and medium sector enterprises (SME) access more capital as well as move faster on finalising its space policy.  
    • The government is working on four pillars: 
      • The freedom of innovation to the private sector.
      • The role of the government as an enabler. 
      • Preparing youth for the future. 
      • To see the space sector as a resource for the progress of the common man. 
    • Ahead of major launches next year, India has announced its intent to liberalise the space sector and have more private companies use the facilities of the ISRO for developing as well as launching satellites. 
    • While there have been drafts of a new space policy, these are yet to take shape.

    Sources: IE+ TH + IE